Tester visits the Bitterroot

by Michael Howell, Bitterroot Star

Senator Jon Tester took a little time out last Thursday from a conference at the Mansfield Center in Missoula to make a quick visit to the Bitterroot. He showed up to address a fairly large but hastily convened gathering of supporters at the Mine Shaft, a coffee house and café located on North 2nd Street in Hamilton. The crowd cheered when he confirmed that he would be running for re-election.

Tester began by making a few comments about the ongoing efforts at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. He said he had been all around the state on this issue and heard lots of stories about people who have health insurance that never had it before.

He told the story of one man in Butte who told him that he had been suffering from diabetes his whole life but couldn’t get any care for it because he couldn’t afford it and couldn’t afford insurance. Tester quoted the man as saying, “To be truthful I also have mental health issues and have never been able to get help for that either.” Consequently, he didn’t have a job, but he had a wife and kids but couldn’t afford it.

Then came the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

“I was finally able to get to a doctor,” Tester quoted the man saying, “I was finally able to get my diabetes under control. I went to a mental health counselor who helped me deal with my mental health issues. Now I’ve got a job.”

Tester noted that the Republicans were working on a replacement plan behind closed doors with armed guards out front.

“If the replacement plan being made provides for better access to health care, that’ll be great. If not, it’s going to be catastrophic,” he said. “Everybody in this room knows somebody who has a pre-existing condition.”

Tester said there are other things that really do need fixing as well. He said it is a fact that there are many middle class people in Montana that don’t get any sort of subsidy, are paying too high a premium and their deductible is too high. He said instead of throwing everything out, the things that are really wrong should be fixed.

He said things were a bit screwy in Washington D.C. right now, “but we are where we are,” he said. “The level of activism right now is like nothing I’ve ever seen and democracy works best when people are involved.”